Communicating with Your Child’s School: Who Are You Going to Call?
My daughter (age 8) started a new elementary school this year. She was more than ready to make the transition after months of thoughtful planning and special “move up” days by her K-2 school. I felt ready too, after attending the parent’s orientation at the end of the last school year. Yet despite the careful preparations, it can be stressful working out a new routine and understanding the processes and procedures when your child starts a new school or child care.
One area that particularly concerns me is knowing who does what and how best to communicate with my child’s school. Who do I call when I’m running late for pick-up? Who do I talk to when there is an issue with another student? And even when I know the right person, do I call, email, request a meeting, try to grab a few minutes during drop-off?
Every school is different and most will have their own unique policy for school and parent-teacher communications. The best advice I ever received was from a friend before starting child care, over six years ago. She told me to quickly establish a relationship with the assistant director. In my child care center, this was the person who was mostly at the front desk greeting parents and children during drop-off and pick-up and usually the one answering the phone. You may know this person as the school secretary at elementary schools, the office manager or education coordinator at preschools or daycares, etc. You’ll recognize him or her by the unwavering ability to know exactly who to talk to, when and by what means. When the director or principal is busy with their many responsibilities, this is my “go to” person for help.
But I also want to be respectful of this person’s time. So, when I can, I try to find out at the outset about who to contact for common situations:
• When there is an academic concern
• When there is a social concern with a child
• When my child’s pick-up arrangement changes
• When my child is absent
• When my child needs to be administered medication
After figuring out who to contact, there is the inevitable question that arises – do I call, email or request a meeting? I find the answer to this very dependent on the school and even down to the individual person so it’s always best to check. For pick-up changes or absenteeism, a quick note to the teacher or call to the main office typically works best. For classroom concerns (academic or social), teachers are usually accessible by email and will recommend an in-person meeting if necessary. For larger concerns (problems with a teacher, bullying, etc.), it’s more than appropriate to call the director or principal directly to set-up a call or in-person meeting.
The best advice for communicating with your child’s school, that I can pay forward, is to be respectful. Most school or child care staff want to work with parents to help resolve concerns or issues for students. By establishing a partnership built on understanding and respect, the end result can be a rewarding experience for everyone.
PARENTING WEBINAR: Parent Teacher Partnerships
Creating optimal parent teacher partnerships takes skill and know-how; you need to understand the goals, your responsibilities, and the line between advocating and over-involvement. Join Bright Horizons education experts Ruth and Melanie, and Bright Horizons parent Rachel, on Tuesday, September 29, 2015 at 12:30 p.m. EST for a discussion about getting the best out of the relationships with your children’s teachers. Register today!
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